The Necessary Evil
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Mining is an easy villain. It’s destructive, it’s dangerous, but it’s also the reason that our modern world exists. And now, as we race to get off fossil fuels to avoid some of the worst effects of the climate crisis, the world faces a pretty complicated dilemma: how to mine and extract lithium in a way that doesn’t fall back on exploitive and unjust practices.
Lithium mines around the world have already attracted plenty of criticism: environmental damage, water shortages affecting indigenous communities and poor working conditions that sparked strikes. One way to address this, some argue, is to have countries like the United States, that typically outsource the dirtiest extractive practices, start mining their own lands.
“We are going to probably have the highest per capita electrical car use,” said Glen Miller, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno. “We better be a part of all of the efforts of mining, of metal recovery and any production.” Miller has spent his career advocating for environmental causes, so his support for the mine at Thacker Pass comes as a surprise. “It is not as problematic as other ones I’ve seen, by quite a bit,” Miller said.
In this episode, we return to Thacker Pass, the site of a proposed lithium mine, to find out what happens when we bring a messy business home.
The first season of “How We Survive” is all about lithium and the messy business of finding climate solutions. New episodes are out every Wednesday. Be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app and tell a friend if you’re enjoying the show.